With profuse apologies to Will Shakespeare, where ever he may be. “To genre or not to genre, that is the question. Whether it be nobler, in the quest for marketing, to adhere to a formulaic genre or to open the taps and let the creative juices flow where they will, it is a conundrum greatly in need of solving.”
There is no question that the greatest challenge facing any self-published author is that of getting the work before the public. Once we have leapt that hurdle and brought a reader into our fold a key factor in building repeat sales is dependability. Thus the genre.
When a reader picks up a Barbara Cartland romance or works by such notables as Michael Crichton, Mary Higgins Clark or James Clavell, they expect to be taken to worlds that exist within certain boundaries. Each genre has its formula and that formula is the skeleton over which the author drapes the flesh of his or her prose.
And then there are the others. Those of us who will craft a tale on any subject that captures current interest or imagination. For lack of a better term, we are the genre benders.
If your purpose in writing is to retire the mortgage while putting three kids through college then you must seriously consider finding the genre and accompanying formula that best fits your worldview and turn your characters loose to play in those fields. If, on the other hand, your goal is to entertain, yourself as well as others, drop a hand grenade into the bucket of genres and then write to fit the scattered pieces as suits your whim.
I confess to being drawn to the latter approach. A reader who purchases my “Baby Pictures” will be taken into the little known world of school photographers and find within that seemingly benign setting a dark tale of duplicity, drugs, sex and murder. Having finished that book, if they were to move on to “The Best Bart Show” they would be taken into the covert activities of secret agents contracted to a clandestine international organization working to thwart Iran’s attempts to build a powerful new weapon of mass destruction. Totally different genres, no formulas.
In order to soften the impact of switching story types I always advise my readers to peruse the cover blurbs and the book descriptions and to use the ‘look inside’ feature if available. My aim is to entertain, not frustrate the reader and I want them to know what they are getting before they swipe the fantastic plastic.
Each writer must decide for him or herself which approach will lead toward their personal goals although a possible middle road would be to use one name for the genre and another for everything else.
In the final analysis to genre or not to genre is unimportant unless you actually free those wonderful stories from your mind and commit them to print. Write on, my friends.